Mistakes I made

 often worried about mistakes I made when my children were young. The other day, my youngest daughter wrote a searingly honest post on her blog, prompted by the story currently in the news about a young girl who has run away with her teacher.

I’m sure that if my children sat down with me individually, they could all remind me of things I did that hurt them, or that upset them. I don’t think that will happen, but if it did, I would admit my faults, and apologise unreservedly for all the times I failed.

It occurs to me though, that we are all affected in some way by things that have happened to us during our lives. These things are part of what made us into the people we are today. Past hurts can make us determined to be better parents to our own children.

I was blessed with wonderful parents who loved me and brought me up to the absolute best of their ability. I never doubted their love, and as a young child I always believed that they knew best.

In fact as I grew and started to form my own opinions about things that I knew were not in line with theirs, I did so quietly. I’d learned that my parents had very fixed views about some things, and that it was probably easier just to keep quiet about my own differing views.

It was as a result of my upbringing that when my children reached the age of about sixteen, I started to trust them with deciding when they were going to come home. The question was always “What time will you be home?”, and never an order to be home at a certain time. It worked for us. They often came home earlier than expected, because they knew it was their decision.

It was as a result of the trust I placed in my youngest daughter at the age of sixteen that she got into the difficulties she talked about in her blog. This has affected her all her life, has contributed to the bouts of depression she has suffered from, and has ultimately shaped her into the person she is today.

Whilst I cannot say that I’m glad it happened to her, I can say that I think that it made her a more thoughtful parent to her own teen. She will always have in the back of her mind the problems that might arise if he’s allowed to be in the company of some other adults too much. She will be watching for problems. She won’t automatically trust other parents with her child, as I did when she was sixteen…. and she might not expect her teen to be able to cope with making his own decisions when he is that age.

Perhaps as a result of her experiences, my daughter will be more like my parents were …she’ll have learned from my “mistakes” just as I learned how to parent from what I perceived to be their mistakes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why there’s such a bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren!


Genes will out

I had a long break from my blog because basically, I was sulking after the website lost my work. It’s so disheartening to write for over two hours, and then find it was all for nothing. 

I can’t believe that it’s already a week since we returned home after a lovely holiday in Cornwall. We stayed in a really nice holiday park near St Austell. We chose it mainly because we wanted to revisit The Eden project…last visited seven years ago, when we spent our honeymoon in St Ives.

Eden was as beautiful as ever, and we spent a very happy day there. I’d recommend it if you haven’t been. We were less impressed with The Lost gardens of Heligan, though to be fair, we didn’t see all of it. I think perhaps we had visions of something different, and it didn’t live up to those expectations. if you’re very fit and up to walking longish distances on a very hilly site, you’d probably love it, but we weren’t up to that on that particular day. I think you’d need your walking boots as well, though that isn’t necessary on the paths that we took that day.

At the end of our holiday, we went to Weymouth to stay with my cousin Lesley and her partner Clive, who are running their first B&B (The Alendale Guest House, in case you want a few days away.)

This was the first time Lesley and I had met. Our other cousin, Trudy, had traced Lesley through Genes Reunited. Trudy’s Grandfather, my Grandfather, and Lesley’s Great Grandfather were brothers. I don’t know what grade of cousins that makes us, but I don’t care. We feel like family to me. I don’t know how Lesley feels, but she and Clive made us feel so welcome, and it felt just like visiting family we’ve always known.

Perhaps “genes will out”, as they say, or perhaps our Grandfathers are up there somewhere looking down on us and are happy that we are bringing the family back together again. In fact if we brought all the “Fouracres” clan together it would be an enormous get-together. We are a large family, and although I know my aunts and uncles, sadly I haven’t even met most of my cousins….perhaps one day…

Genes and all that

I had two phone conversations today, one with my cousin Ann, who said we are so much alike in our attitudes that she thinks we must really be sisters separated at birth, and the other from our Auntie, who was talking about how much my youngest daughter looks like me, and how when Corinne was small it was just like having me as a toddler again.

It started me thinking  about where my looks and my nature come from, and wondering how much I have passed down through my children to their children. Certainly when I was younger, I seemed to be quite a mix of my parents. People meeting either one of them would remark “Aren’t you like your Mum/Dad?”, depending on which one I was with. I think it has been a bit like that with some of my children, though not all.

People would say of my eldest son, “He looks just like his father”, and strangely now, he looks a lot like his father’s cousin. When he was younger, however, his little girl would point at a photo of my Dad at the same age, and say “Daddy!” If Lee had grown a moustache, it could have been a photo of him. The thing Lee has inherited from his dad is his work ethic, and his talent for being able to do practical things around the house and on the car.

My eldest daughter looks like her father’s side of the family, in build as well. She is built like her paternal Grandmother. I’m sure she’s grateful not to have inherited my build. But in nature, she’s like my Mum. Is that genetics? Or the result of her great love for my Mum, a wanting to be like her?

My youngest son looks just like his dad, but could not be more dissimilar in his nature…. That he gets from my mother’s side of the family. he’s just like the elder of my two brothers.

My youngest daughter looks like me sometimes, but at other times she looks like her aunt and great aunt on her father’s side. By coincidence, her great aunt was the mother of the cousin who looks like Lee. What she hasn’t inherited from them is her hourglass figure…that is very definitely from me. She’s sensitive and emotional, friendly and open. A very definite mix of both her Dad and me.

It’s a little difficult to tell what my Grandchildren have inherited yet, apart from my beautiful eldest Granddaughter. She is so much like her Mum and her Mum’s family. Physically she resembles her Grandad ….. no bad thing, he’s a handsome chap. But from her Mum and her Grandmother she gets a talent for always looking lovely, hair and makeup perfect. She’s capable and helpful to her Mum, and that’s the only similarity I can see to me. I was the same as a teenager. But I get the impression that’s how her Mum was too, so I probably can’t take credit for that.

All this leads on to my wondering what would I choose from my relatives if I could steal their looks or personality?

For a start I would want my father’s incredible intelligence, and the openness he displayed with his feelings towards the end of his life. I’d like my mum’s beautiful face, her lovely high cheek bones, and her quiet friendliness, and her concern and kindness when her friends were going through tough times.

I’d like my Auntie Marion’s bubbly personality and sense of humour, and my Auntie Jean’s kindness and loving and thoughtful ways.

I inherited my Great Aunt Florrie’s build. I hope I didn’t inherit her fearsome personality, but I’d certainly like to be as practical as she was, and to be able to cook like she did. She was known in the family for always speaking her mind, and I don’t think I do that, but what I remember is the kindness she showed me as a little girl. She gave me my first taste of cleaning for other people, when I stayed with her at the house where she was housekeeper to an elderly man. She told me it was important to clean thoroughly, and reiterated what my Nana used to say “Look after the corners and the middle will look after itself”. She had a hard shell, with a soft centre that she didn’t show to most people, but all in all, she wasn’t a bad person to be compared to

Memories of Nana

My two year old grandson got me thinking this morning. he apparently pointed at the little photo of me on Facebook, and said “Nana in there!”

That brought back some memories for me; just odd little things that I remember from when I was a child. Probably the earliest memory is of sitting in my pram with the hood up. The trim was the wrong side of the Greek key pattern. My mother told me she put away the pram a couple of months before my brother was born, so I wouldn’t think he was in my place, so I couldn’t have been more than 15 months old.

I had a dummy as a baby, and my next, very clear memory is of my Nana picking up my dummy and saying “Jennifer” When I held out my hand for it, she threw the dummy in the fire. I don’t remember any great distress over that, I just accepted it was gone, and as I didn’t know you could buy them in the shop, I don’t think I made a fuss. Later though, when my brother was newly born, I remember stealing his dummy, and sitting in Nana’s leather armchair with my head under a cushion so nobody would know what I was doing.

Just a few months before my Mum died, she mentioned that at about that time, I would talk about wanting to see the “pignig.” They couldn’t let me see it, because they didn’t know what I was talking about. Fifty years later  I was able to enlighten her. It was the teddy bear’s picnic. I think I mixed up an actual memory of my Dad pushing me in a pushchair and lifting me up to show me children playing on swings and slides, with a dream, where the children were bears, dressed in clothes. I know my Dad used to sing “The Teddy Bears Picnic” to me, so that might explain it!

My Grandad died when we were in Germany. My Dad was in the Army. I have three clear memories of Grandad. The first is of standing between his legs for a cuddle. He had thrombosis, so couldn’t sit me on his knee. The second is of eating his dinner, sharing with him. Mum had told me he was very fastidious about food, so it didn’t really add up, until she told me that at about eighteen months I stopped eating. They discovered that if I thought my Grandad was giving me his dinner, I would eat, so Nana started putting both meals on a huge serving platter, one at each end.

The third memory is of Elsie Shufflebottom. Elsie lived at the bottom of the yard. She always got the best, a share of Grandad’s sweets, a bit of his icecream. Worse than that, she was beautiful. She had long curly hair, so long she could sit on it. She apparently only appeared when I wasn’t there, and Grandad described her clothes to me …”Do you know, she had the bonniest pinny I’ve ever seen!” He would tease me with “Well I’d like to give you some of this, but I promised Elsie Shufflebottom she could have it. Then he’d relent, saying as she wasn’t there just then, I could have it instead. I was very jealous of Elsie!

My memory of my Nana is more hazy, but just as precious. It’s of a feeling, rather than of a particular event. It’s a feeling of great love and security. Feeling safe, and just knowing that she really, really loved me. There are lots of things I do remember. Helping her with the mangle in the back yard, going with her to the town, visiting the indoor market, and having a drink in Woolworths, sitting up on a swivel stool. Her sitting in her chair by the back window in the “kitchen”, which was what we’d call the living room now. But the main memory is the one I’d really like my Grandchildren to have of me.. a memory of a Nana who really really loved them.

Feeding the birds

Since we lost our lovely old cat, Izzie, last September, Mike and I have started to try to encourage birds back to our garden. It started with a very cheap bird table that we bought on the internet, followed closely by Mike’s masterpiece, a nesting box that he designed and built in the garden shed.

He placed them both in our tiny garden, we put some bread out, and we waited, and we waited. Meanwhile we bought a fat ball feeder and a peanut feeder, and hung them on the shed. The fat ball shrivelled and died, and the nuts went mouldy.

Now this might sound silly, but I started to feel very rejected. Why were the birds not coming to eat the food I’d lovingly cooked?…Well OK, not exactly cooked, but still, thought had gone into it. I’d walked outside in the cold without my coat to put food out. Soon I was taking the dustpan and brush out with me to clean off the bird table so I could put more food out, only for it to be rejected once again.

Meanwhile, every Thursday I’d go and clean for an elderly lady, and watch with amazement as squirrels competed with dozens of birds for the food she put out. One day I watched a young fox eating bread that had been put out for the birds. The garden was visited by a pair of ducks, seagulls, and pigeons, as well as a whole host of garden birds, and every week I was treated to the sight of a beautiful red and black woodpecker, who visits just for the fat balls.

One Thursday I came home and Mike told me he’d seen a blackbird on the bird table. Even more exciting was the news that a pair of blue tits had been checking out the nesting box. …and a robin was regularly visiting the garden.

I felt like a Mum with a fussy child, who had suddenly started to eat the food so lovingly provided. I was keen to get them to try new things, so suddenly garden centres, which up until now had been interesting for plants and stone ornaments and nice coffee shops, became places to go to to look at birdseed and meal worms. I found myself looking through the kitchen cupboards for suet, and currants, anything the birds might like.

The blue tits use the seed feeder and the peanuts and the fat balls. The robin loves the mealworms. And me – I’m like a very proud mum. “Do you know? All the food I put out has gone…I’ll have to refill the bird table.”

Soon, I hope to be a grandmother…those blue tits are very definitely interested in moving into the nesting box.!

On afternoon naps

When did it happen? This need to plan my days so I can factor in some time to lie down for a little while and have a sleep? I’ve always liked a sleep in the afternoon. It started with working split shifts at Barnardo’s. The 2-5 break was just right for a little nap. It was something I liked, but not something I actually needed, if you know what I mean. I could work all day, go out in the evening, do a bit of studying, and get up the next day and start all over again. If I ever missed my nap it didn’t matter, I don’t remember feeling tired, ever, even though on most of my days off I chose to take one of the children into Brighton with me, so I didn’t even rest then.

Now the nap is not a choice, it’s a necessity. I will lie on the settee, and say to Mike “I’m going to sleep now”, close my eyes, and go to sleep. Immediately. In seconds. Worse is the need to plan my day around it. It’s odd, because if I go shopping, for instance, I’m fine, not tired, don’t need to find a park bench to lie down on. But if I need to work, or do something for somebody, I find myself planning my day in detail, trying to factor in time for that nap.

Tomorrow is a good example. I have three things I have to do. Two jobs for a total of three hours, and I have to take someone for their hospital appointment. Not arduous, really, but already I am worrying about when I will have my little sleep, and even whether I will be up to doing the second job in the evening. The rational side of me tells me not to be so silly. And actually I know that people with full time jobs will wonder what on earth I’m going on about.

Tomorrow will come, I’ll just get on with it, I’ll be fine. If I don’t get a sleep it won’t matter.

I think it may be part of a general anxiety about things, that happens when you get older. When the children were young, we were planning one of our pre Christmas special weekends, at my Mum and Dad’s house, and my Mum said “But where will everyone sleep?”. I didn’t understand what she was worried about…we’d find a bit of floor somewhere. Now I know how she felt!

Very special times

Today is the 13th birthday of one of my Grandsons. his mum is my youngest daughter, and today her blog is about the day of his birth.

Whenever one of my children or Grandchildren have a birthday, I think about the beginning, the first time I saw them. Each birth is different, each baby is unique, and each introduction is special.

My eldest Granddaughter was born a few months after the break up of my marriage. My emotions were all over the place. Grandchildren were supposed to be the next generation of “our ” family. I went to the hospital, on the one hand thrilled at the birth of this beautiful little girl, yet not knowing whether my husband would also be there, hoping he wouldn’t, and hoping he would. I was nervous about how I would react to seeing the baby’s other Grandparents there… a very happily married couple. Bless them, I think they understood, and swept me up into the euphoria in that room, including me and not giving me time to think about what might have been. By the time I left the hospital room I felt stronger, so that when I met my husband on his way in, I was able to turn around and take him in to see the baby.

When the next baby was born, I took my friend, who was visiting me for the day. The baby was a little unsettled, and my friend took him, laid him on her lap, and massaged his head (Cranio – Sacral therapy) It was amazing to see how every muscle in his body relaxed. That friend helped make that first introduction special. She was someone to share the experience with, someone to agree that he was definitely the most beautiful baby in the ward!

My eldest daughter’s first baby was special because we hadn’t expected her to have children. He shot into the world on bonfire night. My memory of that first meeting is of her sitting up in bed, knees raised, with the baby resting on them. She was  just gazing at her beautiful new son. Is it just in my memory they seem to be bathed in sunlight?

Two years later we welcomed baby number two. He came into the world looking a lot like his mother. I remember how thrilled she was to have another beautiful little boy. My memory of him then is blurred. I think I met him the next day when they were home from hospital, but my main memory is a bitter sweet one, of taking him into intensive care and laying him on my Mother’s pillow. We put her hand on him, and told her it was her new Great Grandson. She wasn’t conscious, but her heartbeat speeded up on the monitor. It meant a lot to my daughter and me that Mum, at the end of her life, seemed aware that he was there.

My youngest son’s children next. My Granddaughter was born in Liverpool, and my youngest daughter and I travelled up to see her when she was two days old. Her mother was tired and a bit stressed after a traumatic birth experience in hospital, and having had her family visit the day before, so we didn’t want to over tire her again. The baby was awake, and I remember after a while I took her into their bedroom and laid on the bed for about half an hour, just gazing at her. She was gorgeous. She looked a lot like her Mum, and was one of those babies that looked wise, an old soul. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her often, and I wanted to memorise every bit of her lovely little face.

Their next baby was born after they’d moved to Devon. By this time I was very happy in my personal life, having remarried, and my husband and I travelled to see him when he was two days old. I think I expected things to be a bit fraught, but we walked into this wonderful calm atmosphere, this beautiful little boy having been born at home. One of my favourite memories is of watching my husband as he cradled a new born baby for the first time. This was how I’d always imagined being Grandparents should be, though , of course he isn’t biologically linked to these children.

I was stunned when I heard there was to be a third baby in this family, especially as the birth was only two months away when we found out. But what a wonderful surprise! As usual, when we got the call to say that the baby was here, safe and well, and born at home while the other two slept, I was thrilled and excited, and

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